Friday, April 21, 2017

#MOMAZING


A little over eight years ago I became a mom for the first time to a beautiful baby girl. When I look back at the very beginning of my motherhood journey I still see it with these rose colored glasses of pure bliss. Between my maternity leave and summer vacation as a teacher I had about six months at home with her and then I went back to work full time including coaching a Fall sport. I had always been a list checker, sometimes over achiever, occasional perfectionist so I tackled motherhood the same way. At first I didn’t really understand what all the fuss about it being so hard was all about. I had this. I was a rock star at this whole career momma thing.

So two and half years later we added baby #2, another precious baby girl. Except she was colic, I had a two year older toddler, a full time career that I just couldn’t give the same dedication to anymore, and we were in the process of moving and it all started to unravel.  The pressure to succeed, to do well was like nothing I’d ever experienced, even more than as a pitcher with a full count and the bases loaded. I struggled. Like the stand in the shower and just sob in frustration kind of struggle or the step outside of your house to escape to just take deep breaths before you lost your shit on somebody. I made mistakes. I failed. I let motherhood defeat me, and I hated myself for it. But I remember one day when I was having a rough day and my then four year old told me she loved me even when I was mad and upset that I truly started to understand how differently  they saw us than we saw ourselves.

This struggling and feeling like I was failing wasn’t what I envisioned in my successful idealism of balancing life, career, and motherhood. It was like I had gone from this graceful masterful trapeze artist that suddenly lost her balance as the crowd waited in hushed tones to see if I’d regain my footing. Whereas everyone else seemed to still be that graceful trapeze artist as they navigated the trenches of motherhood here I was the clown of my own circus show of motherhood trying to juggle way too many balls in the air. Just as all the things that go up must come down, it all crashed around me. After a year I final spoke to a Dr. Though I believe part of my problem was post partum depression by the time I sought help my second daughter was well over a year old and they actually labeled my depression as a symptom to a thyroid disorder they found that I had.

But it was at that time when I was struggling the most with this motherhood thing that I started to write. When we become mothers we are remade. Motherhood I've come to see is the journey from the girl we were to the woman we become. We will never be the same person we were. We evolve and change as we adapt to this most important profound role of our lives. Sometimes we get a little lost on our way.  As I taught students by day as they navigated their own search for self journey through the trying years of adolescence I navigated my own journey at night through my writing as I searched for this new woman that I now was as a mother of two.

Here’s what I learned as I wrote away about the highs and lows of being a mom and balancing life. Searching for perfection is a falsehood that steals our joy. I love the internet and social media. We now have the “internet” to tell us all the ways we are doing this motherhood thing wrong, all the ways we aren’t “enough”, all the ways we need to change to be better. This was peer pressure was greater than I remember from the adolescent days of high school! It may seem like everyone is great at everything but really we’re all just great at different things. We each need to find our uniqueness as a mom and embrace it! I learned I was enough. You are enough. We must love ourselves on the good days and love ourselves even more on the hard days, ladies.

My sisters and I were athletes growing up and our Dad when we would get down on our capabilities to win a game would tell us to get out of our head. I still find that to be so true today in motherhood. Due to depression after the second and then two miscarriages leading up to my third child I have to remind myself of this often. Our doubt lives there and it waits for us to struggle or a threat of failure to taunt us, stealing our confidence. About six months after my third child, our son, was born I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office this time diagnosed with post partum depression.

Even though I have loved to write since I was a child I never dreamed writing about the journey of motherhood or parenting would be my writing platform, but it was the community that formed about my writing that keeps me here because we need each other. To  talk to other women about loving themselves, embracing their flaws, and finding the beauty in motherhood and life on the tough days is a great reason to keep doing what I’m doing which is why I love that Chicken Soup gave me the opportunity to write for them. Chicken Soup stands for community and togetherness. They promote not just accepting and loving one another but ourselves too.  The world desperately needs love right now. We need to love ourselves, love one another, love those that support us, and through all of that we will teach our children love and hopefully that will lead to a better future full of more love rather than hate.

 Three kids, two miscarriages, two depression episodes, yet a wonderful life of eight years into this parenthood thing I can stand here and yes validate for you that this is ridiculously hard. Some days I feel like all anyone notices-work, the husband, the kids-are all the things I’m doing wrong rather than any little thing I’m doing right.

But I can also validate for you that there is nothing better, more rewarding than this journey of motherhood we’re on right now. Their giggles, hugs, their own journeys and accomplishments will overwhelm our hearts. They are worth the hardships everyday. So for them we will stare down our failures, mistakes, and disappointments and not let them get the best of us. They give us more joy than we ever imagined possible. To watch your kids become their own people and see how they inspire us to be better each day is an amazing gift. They will inspire us but without our even realizing it we will inspire them too.

In this competitive digital era of mommy wars, pinterest wars, instagram and facebook highlight reels it's easy to get more bombarded with the criticism and self doubt than the unity we should have in this journey. But whether we’re the older mom that’s traveled these trenches of the early season of motherhood, the mom that gives so much of her time to the school and PTA, the mom juggling her career with kids, the fit or creative mom that throws herself into her passions and makes herself a priority despite it all there's something to admire in about all of us. We are so dedicated to this role is so many different ways. We can recognize one another’s good deeds without it meaning any less of our own. I find so many of you #momazing in life and motherhood so I challenge all of you to leave a note of encouragement and appreciation on another mom or woman's social media page and tell her why she's #momazing (don't forget the hash tag). Let her know she should continue to spread the #momazing love by doing the same to at least two other moms. We are as unique and as individual as mothers and women as our own children are from one another. We all bring something different to the story of motherhood. Allow yourself to inspire and be inspired by one another. Share the mom love and tell someone why she's #momazing!  

 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Didn't Get the Best Me

I had such high hopes and expectations for myself and this year when I headed back to work in August. Everything had finally fallen into place. Our family was finally complete with a little boy even, we were not only settled and financially stable from our move into a small town community to raise our kids but once again found ourselves some great people to call friends in our new small town family life, Nate and I had both just had our best years of our careers the year before. There for a bit it really was picture perfect, and I knew in that moment it was great.

This past week I probably had my most successful week of the past few months. I sent an essay off for another possible publication, I received my order of books for two upcoming book sale events including my first ever book signing, scheduled a screening interview for a possible job that would be so ideal, knocked out my deadline goals at work with a yearbook deadline and third quarter grades, received a decent write up from a drop in observation, had a student leave me a great thank you note, got outside four times this week to play with my kids, and got in four workouts. We leave in a week to go home- one of my most favorite places to go-and made reservations for a little side stop to add another state/stop to our US map of places visited. It was a successful week. I should feel good about it.

But I'm just flat. I'm not "feeling" it. The past few months have seriously kicked my butt. No one or nothing got the best me these past few months. Definitely not my job. My house-haha- my housekeeping obligations started getting the worst of me somewhere between the second and third kid. My kids probably more times than they should have probably did not get the best me. My husband definitely didn't get the best me as that poor guy has had to run at the bottom of my "list" for far too long though we did have a great weekend away in the Fall alone together. I didn't give anything the best me like I had had such high expectations to do months ago. Instead I think I reached a point where I let it all get the best OF me.

The job itself has been more stressful than ever for everyone in my school system it seems like. Teachers have been dropping out of the profession before the end of the year at a rate I've never seen. I have serious philosophical issues with what's been going on with policy changes in our system, and I have a really hard time "selling" something I don't believe in. 

On top of that in the last six months my grandfather passed away; I dealt with the craziest parent sleep deprivation I've ever experienced; I've had issues with my own health with a post partum depression breakdown that resulted from no sleep and overwhelming work stress, pneumonia, and now I have to have oral surgery in a few weeks to remove an infected tooth that's been leaving me in chronic pain since February; we were told Nate's job that he loves won't be there for him next year due to budget cuts; and we learned of my cousin's cancer diagnosis. I let it all get the best of me. Twice now I've come home with no energy and have just crashed, sleeping the afternoon away. That on top of just not feeling "right" even after a good past week has me thinking maybe it's just my thyroid again. It's messed with me pretty good before.  I'm running on "fake it until I make it" positivity right now.

Sometimes I tell myself maybe I need to just lower my own expectations of myself. But I also don't handle the unknown very well. I don't handle not having everything "in control" very well. I also don't handle things not going "my way" very well. I hate feeling like I failed or disappointed someone. I have a hard time letting those things go which I know I should but obviously I still have some personality/mindset issues to work on.

In a few days I get to leave town and spend 10 days with my little family and visit my family back home. Hopefully it's the "medicine" I need to clear my head, put the disappointment that this year wasn't what I had expected or hoped for behind me, let go of the frustrations that I can, and come back positive and hopeful for the challenges and good things ahead.



 

Friday, March 31, 2017

What "Collateral Beauty" Taught Me

Guest Post by Stepping into Fatherhood aka Nathan Glenn

My wife has been wanting me to write a guest post on this blog for a while now.  I hadn’t known what I wanted to write about until now.  I just watched a movie called “Collateral Beauty.”  Though it really didn’t get very good reviews, I feel that it was a very powerful movie.  In fact I don’t know how you could watch it and not have to wipe tears away from your eyes, especially if you have young children.

Without ruining this movie for you… this movie is about dealing with loss.  Specifically the loss of a young child.  Whenever I watch a movie like this I can’t help butt imagine what that must be like and I can feel the pain as I put myself in the characters' shoes.  It really got me thinking about how we live our lives…more specifically how we live our lives with our children. 

Especially with modern technology, too often we check out.  How many times are you present with your children?  I mean really present???  I got to thinking about this on a personal level and I know that too often, way too often, we are physically present with our children but checked out because we are on Facebook, watching TV, playing games on our phone, doing work, etc, which my wife and I are guilty of all at different moments. Time goes too fast for us to continue to do this and we know it's something we need to really consciously work on.
 The time we have with our children will never be again.  There is no rewind button in life.  We don’t want to miss those special moments because we were checked out on our phone. We can’t get them back again!  We do our best to enjoy our children and cherish every moment, but we both feel we could do better.   As is pointed out in the movie “tomorrow is not promised.”  I could not even imagine losing a child.  My children are my everything and I really don’t know how I would be able to go on. However, I do know that I can enjoy the beauty that my children bring into the world.    Every day my children, your children, bring beauty into this world simply by being in it.  Be it a laugh, a smile, a hug, a cuddle, or a thought there is something every day that is truly special.  Every day we get to spend with them is a gift! 

This also reminds me of something I often tell my wife when she complains about our girls crawling into our bed.  Cherish these moment because one of these days it will be the last of its kind.  The last time crawling into our bed to get snuggles, the last time needing us to do their hair, the last piggy back ride, the last bedtime story, the last, the last, the last.  We are going to miss these things when they are gone so we need to experience as many of these moments as possible.  We can’t do that when we are checked out doing other much less important things.
So from now on we're going to look up from our phone, put down our work, turn off the TV and enjoy what really matters in life… our children.  There is a saying that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.   Our children love us, they look up to us, and they yearn for our attention.    One day the “mommy, daddy” moments will become less frequent and begin to disappear and I don’t know about anyone else but I'm going to miss these moments.

 
 
 
                                     The Hubby's other Stepping into Fatherhood Guest Post

                               How Marriage is Like Riding a Bike: also written by the Hubby

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's Going To Be Okay

Shortly before we found out Lincoln was a boy I had a dream. It was the dream that not only told me he was a boy-which I didn't believe because I kept thinking we were having three girls- but that something wrong or troubling was coming but in the end it would be okay. As those of you that follow this story know not only was the dream correct in telling me he was indeed a boy but that he had heart tumors that first we had to worry could cause fetal death if hydrops developed, and then once he made it through the scariest part of the pregnancy  we had to worry that it was connected to a genetic disorder that would cause tumors to grow on his other organs and cause a variety of other problems for the rest of his life.  They told us he would have to go two years without any other tumors or evidence of the disorder appearing anywhere else on his organs before they would dismiss his case as a rare occurrence with multiple heart tumors that were not in connection to the disorder.

I still experienced a lot of crazy anxiety during that pregnancy but let me tell you that dream is what reassured me time and time again. I believed in it. After my miscarriages I prayed and prayed for something to reassure me about getting through a third pregnancy. Though I have had "visitation" dreams I had never experienced a dream of something in the future like this, and I haven't had one since.

Though I was confident months ago that he was going to be okay, I kept waiting to "experience" that moment in the dark nursery where I knew it was all okay. Though I would sit in that dark nursery rocking my baby boy many times, thinking how I knew in my heart he was okay, and would even ask myself was this possibly the moment I dreamed, it never "felt" like that moment.

Two weeks ago he went for his last EEG of this first year rotation. A couple days ago Kennedy Krieger called me to tell me once again that he was clear of any signs of seizure activity from brain tumors. And that he does not need to have any more EEGs! We're suppose to follow up with Kennedy Krieger this summer, and I'm not sure at this time if they'll have him undergo organ scans like he did at birth again or not. Either way I continue to be confident my baby boy is okay. Not only do I thank God for answering all of our prayers but for even answering the one to ease my anxiety in some way. That dream carried me through my pregnancy and beyond. I truly believed God sent me that dream.

Except then something happened the other night. My cousin that I grew up with was diagnosed two weeks ago with breast cancer at age 34. That has obviously weighed heavily on my mind now these past two weeks. Then one week later my older cousin (my sisters and I are the only other three girls on this side of the family tree)  received the news she also very possibly has cancer so now we are also waiting to hear her prognosis. My mind has been distracted and worrisome of late to say the least.

On Sunday night after we found out our water heater was leaking again for the fourth time in four years, I was tired from a quick weekend trip up north to see my husband's family, and it was almost an hour past my own bedtime, and my fighting daughters who should have also been in bed woke up the sleeping baby I was just ready for one of my own mommy meltdowns. So I grabbed that screaming baby out of his crib and sat there in that dark nursery to rock him. Of course my mind was still wondering if my cousin with the breast cancer had received her PET scan results yet because we were still anxiously waiting to make sure the cancer hadn't spread and it was contained. But as the quiet and peace finally settled around me in that dark nursey I told that sleeping baby, "You know it's all going to be okay. We're all going to be okay." Within moments I realized right then was the moment of my dream! But the "going to be okay" wasn't about my baby boy and his heart and this possible genetic order. It was about my cousin, my family, and this damn cancer. All this time I took the moment in that dream to be about the baby and his heart.

Was the dream meant to reassure me about him after all? Or was it meant to reassure me now? I don't know. But I do know this. I was meant to believe in it. Believe in it this whole past year when I thought it was meant for Lincoln. And believe in it now when I realized maybe it was meant for this moment with my cousin(s) and family. I've always felt that God talks to us and sends us messages if we believe and listen. He's there. We just have to believe and we have to look and listen. I'm listening and I believe. Thanks for always praying for us. We will continue to need them in the months ahead for my cousin as she begins chemo, for my one and only older cousin as she faces her own cancer path, for Lincoln as we hopefully continue working on ruling out this genetic disorder this summer and revisit his cardiologist in May to check on the hopeful continued shrinkage of the tumor he does have, and for all of us on this journey with the ones we love.

 
 
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Cancer and the Warrior Within

I don't know if cancer has ever walked into your life. It has mine. Once it does you don't walk back away from it the same way. Even as a twelve year old kid when I had to watch my dad and my cousin lose their brother and father to cancer that time in my life marked me. I get and understand now that I'm a pretty emotionally overcharged person, but that's part of why as even a kid when I watched my uncle lose his life to cancer at only 41 years old I understood how truly unfair life is.

From that point on I've spent my life wondering when and who cancer was coming back for. Though it showed it's ugly head briefly for a year with my aunt we were fortunate in it was caught very early and taken care of. Other than that we've gone 23 years since that last battle. But it's claimed one of us again. Possibly two in the same month.

I'm stunned. Stunned that it really did come back for one of us again. Stunned at who it claimed even though I always feared it's returned. Stunned that it struck us again so young. I'm mad. Mad that she has to go through this. Mad that my family has to watch someone they love go through this again. I'm scared. Because I've seen the worst of what this monster can do. I feel so many emotions right now for this person that I love very much. This person that I have spent very little of my life without and has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. But despite being stunned, mad, and scared, I'm also hopeful because this monster didn't come back for the weakest of the weak. It came for the strongest of the strong. The strength of this person has amazed me since I was a kid. We were family, we were friends, but this person is also one of the most the most inspirational people in my life. She can and will beat this, and she will come out the other side even stronger than she already was. Because, little brave, those of us that know you, know there has always been a warrior within you.